WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is acknowledging that Europe's economic situation could have a spillover effect on his own re-election prospects.
As he wrapped up the Group of 20 economic summit of world leaders, Obama expressed confidence in Europe's ability to right its own financial ship. He said he was hopeful that voters would validate his own efforts come November if he stayed focused on strengthening both the U.S. and world economies and creating more jobs at home.
"I've consistently believed that if we take the right policy steps, if we're doing the right thing, then the politics will follow, and my mind hasn't changed on that," the president said a news conference in this Mexican resort Tuesday at the close of what is expected to be his last foreign trip before the November election.
The president returned early Wednesday to Washington, where a tough re-election fight and a shaky economy awaited him.
Obama said he was encouraged that European leaders understood the depth of their continent's economic problems and were working in unison to address it.
"Even if they cannot achieve all of it in one fell swoop, I think if people have a sense of where they are going, that can provide confidence and break the fever," Obama said.
Locked in a difficult campaign, Obama acknowledged he couldn't control the pace of action in Europe despite the repercussions the continent's debt crisis could have on the U.S. economy and his own re-election prospects. The U.S. economy is undergoing a slow recovery amid a slump in hiring and indications that the housing market is healing. Those mixed signals have muddled Obama's prospects for a second term as GOP challenger Mitt Romney mounts a campaign singularly focused on the state of the U.S. economy.
Obama also was frank in laying out the disagreement among the United States, Russia and China over whether Syrian President Bashar Assad can remain as leader of Russia's main Mideast ally. He blamed wholesale slaughter of civilians squarely on Assad's government and said while the U.S. and Russia, in particular, both fear all-out civil war in Syria, they remain divided about exactly what to do next.
Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of meetings at the posh seaside resort. China and Russia have close ties to Syria and have vetoed two U.N. resolutions that mentioned the threat of sanctions against Assad's regime.
The bloodshed in Syria and the economic crisis in Europe dominated the discussions at the gathering of the world's leading and developing nations.
Obama told reporters that in two days of intensive meetings, Europe's leaders showed a "heightened sense of urgency."
The president maintained that Europe had the capacity to solve the crisis on its own, indicating the U.S., still battling its own economic woes, would not be offering any financial pledges to help its international partners.
Still, Obama recognized the challenge European nations faced because each country has to separately approve any action to stabilize the fiscal union.
Mindful of his audience of voters in the U.S., Obama said, "The best thing the United States can do is to create jobs and growth in the short term even as we continue to put our fiscal house in order over the long term."
Obama urged Congress to focus on steps it could take to boost job creation and economic growth, pitching legislation he proposed months ago that has little chance of garnering Republican support in an election year.
All sides at the G-20 summit seemed intent on sending confident signals to jittery markets and unhappy electorates.
Underscoring the stakes, Obama broke from the main summit Tuesday for a brief meeting with leaders from Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the European Union.
Despite the words of unity, European leaders showed signs that they have heard enough about their troubles, particularly from Americans. Memories linger of the 2008 financial crash that was born in the United States and destroyed jobs and wealth.
"The eurozone has a serious problem, but it is certainly not the only imbalance in the world economy," Italian Prime Minster Mario Monti said. He said the United States' own financial problems were mentioned in G-20 talks "by almost everybody, including President Obama."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso took an aggressive tone with reporters Monday, also pointing some blame at North America and saying, "Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy."
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